A photo of myself with straight, hair, glasses, minimal makeup in a grey dress with 2 white stripes across my lower chest. The background is dark and then there an a star outline and you can see people in the back but this is out of focus.
Virtual Occupational Therapy Placement 2020

How Will I Define ‘Independent’ as an Occupational Therapist?

I’ve recently just turned 20 and have just written a blog- What I Would Tell My 10-year-old Self which explains a bit about what my disability has taught me over the past 10 years. Since being 20 I’ve reflected a lot, and a big topic that always comes up is my independence.

As I’m getting older, I’m becoming more aware of the effects of my disability and therefore I have more of an understanding of what is classed as ‘normal’ for a person of my age and this makes me question how independent I can be when I qualify as an occupational therapist…

Since starting my #VirtualOTPlacement I’m feeling a lot more confident than I have done on my previous placement as I’ve had no other choice but to be independent as this how the role-emerging placements works. I’ve also had amazing feedback from many OT’s on Twitter which has helped me to believe in myself.

However, when I talk about confidence, I don’t mean the confidence to speak up as I feel like I’m quite vocal- hence why I’m a blogger. I mean to have confidence in my professional capabilities. It’s only week 3 I still have a lot of events coming up during this placement that will help me to build up my confidence in which I will take with me to my next placement. But I can’t help but thinking that when I go on my next traditional placement this confidence will decreased as I know I won’t be able to be as independent. I mean it’s a given this is the most independent placement for anyone because of the nature of the role-emerging placement. I don’t have face-to-face contact with my supervisor every day and I have more control over what I’m doing. But I’m talking about my physical capabilities as my next placement is going to be a lot physically demanding and cause more fatigue so, therefore, I will need help evidencing my independence.

I have a placement learning agreement to identify the reasonable adjustments the are required under the Equality Act (2010). The agreement covers everything that I find challenging on placement and now I’ve passed two traditional placements I have a better idea of what my needs on placement are.

I remember when I went to my first placement for a visit, when they asked me what my needs were I gave them a very basic answer, because the truth was I hadn’t been on placement before I didn’t know what I was and what I wasn’t going to struggle with.

Now we have a better idea of what the challenges are, and towards the end of my last placement my educator could accommodate my needs a lot better as we figured out that I needed a bit longer to write notes and that if I was just doing office work and felt fatigue then there would be nothing stopping me from doing this at home.

My last placement also involved a lot of equipment which I found challenging, so, it was said that I should talk someone through how to set up the equipment to demonstrate my understanding. But is this it? Will me explaining how something is done to someone so they can do it for me be the most independent I’ll feel when I qualify?

I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll never be as independent as other occupational therapists, in practice and will always need help as my physical needs aren’t going to change. But I’d like to think that there’s a way around some of the obstacles that I will face.

I really enjoyed my paediatric placement, and I don’t want to say that, that’s the area for me as I’m still to experience a mental health placement but this is the area that I’ve enjoyed working in the most so far. This placement wasn’t as physically demanding as my last placement in assistive technology, but it was still challenging at times… I don’t think I’ll be rushing back to hydrotherapy anytime soon. So, therefore, if I was to work in paediatrics I would need help with carrying and setting up equipment which you’d think is no big deal, but it does impact my confidence as it makes me feel that I’m not making as much of an impact.

When I’m working this view may change as I’ll have my own caseload and I’ll be a lot more involved in the service which will naturally increase my self-belief. But it still leaves me wondering what my independence will be…

Whatever my ‘independence’ is I’ll be okay with it I mean this time 3 years ago I didn’t think I’d be able to drive so who knows what the future holds, I’ve just got to continue to be optimistic. But I also need to be realistic with myself, I’m never going to be the greatest at manual handling. This is completely fine I may not even go into a physically demanding job. I guess, my point is that I don’t have to be totally independent to be satisfied with my independence. But I’m happy with this and I know that one day I will be that occupational therapist that I want to be as I am very determined to reach for my potential in my career- in whichever area of occupational therapy I end up in. However, it can be hard to know what this will look like and how long it’ll take me to get there as who knows what physical demands and unexpected battles, I may face along the way…

Thank you for reading,